| Thu, Sep 21, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

The Most Accessible Medicare Resource You May be Overlooking

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

rina shah headshotTop Tips on Medicare Explained by People Who Live It Every Day

Most of us could use a little guidance when learning about Medicare and our coverage options. This is especially true as Medicare Open Enrollment gets closer, when we have the opportunity to change our coverage choices for the following year. Open Enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7.

So, as part of National Medicare Education Week, we turned to leaders from organizations and companies in the health and aging fields to get their thoughts on preparing for Medicare Open Enrollment. Today we focus on Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and the help that your local pharmacist may provide.

We spoke with Rina Shah, Vice President of Pharmacy Operations for Walgreens. Walgreens operates more than 8,000 stores throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Shah began her career at Walgreens in 1998, holding various pharmacy roles. She currently leads a team that is responsible for patient experience across Walgreens.

Q: How can pharmacists help people understand their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and decide whether to look into changing it during Open Enrollment?

Shah: It’s important to evaluate your Medicare coverage every year during Medicare Open Enrollment. Your current coverage may have changes in its premium, deductible and copay amounts. Also, your current pharmacy may or may not remain in your plan’s network of preferred pharmacies, because that network can change from year to year.

Your Walgreens pharmacist can be a source of information and provide you tools that can help identify a plan that may be best for you. [Note: You may get drug coverage through a standalone Medicare Part D plan or through a Medicare Advantage plan.]

Q: What are the important questions people should ask when considering Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage?

Shah: First, are your prescription drugs covered under the plan? If not, another plan might give you better coverage, or perhaps the drugs you take can be replaced with a generic or alternate brand.

Second, how will all combined out-of-pocket costs affect you – not just the premium, but deductibles and copays, too?

Finally, is the pharmacy you want to receive medications from in the plan’s network? Your present plan’s pharmacy network can change from year to year, so make sure you can still go to the pharmacy that’s best for you.

Q: How can your local pharmacist serve as a resource when using your Part D prescription drug benefits?

Shah: Even before you pick up and pay for your prescription medicine, ask your pharmacist how much your copay will cost you. In instances where a drug might not be covered by insurance, your pharmacist can give you advice on generic or alternate brands that might be covered at a lower cost. They can contact your doctor and, if necessary, obtain an alternate prescription. She or he can also make other suggestions on cutting costs, such as using 90-day refills instead of 30, reducing your monthly cost.

The bottom line

Learning about Medicare prescription drug coverage doesn’t have to feel like navigating a maze. Help is available, including from your local pharmacist. To get started, check out this overview of Medicare prescription drug coverage  and other resources such as Medicare.gov. Be ready for Medicare Open Enrollment.

For more information, explore NMEW.com, MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.



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